Living in interesting times

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Praise the Lord, we live in interesting times!*

There is a proverb/curse of alleged Chinese origin, “May you live in interesting times.” The implication is that a life lived in interesting times is less desirable than one lived in peace and tranquility. To be sure, the danger and uncertainty and lack and want of these years are difficult to manage sometimes, but surely it is better to live in interesting times than uninteresting. Why? Jesus.

We could change that phrase to “May you live in prophetic times” and it would be better applicable for the believer. For those who are IN the Lord, believers in Jesus and saved by His grace, we know that though difficult, the times that are more “interesting” offer more growth in sanctification than times when everything is going along peacefully.

The tremendous opportunity we have to actually watch God at work in the world in such an interesting and visible way fuels my love for Him and my amazement at His sovereignty. Providentially, He sustains the world and universe in general. Providentially, He specifically ordains each and every breath, event, and movement for all His creatures, human and otherwise. How can we not be satisfied with that, when we know that whatever happens is for our good and His glory?

Yes, a life in a previous time might well have been more peaceful, but less astonishing. And the difficult times offer us the opportunity to grow in Jesus. He is the Potter. He sanctifies us and shapes us through trials and challenges. And my, what challenges these times offer. There is such violence in the world- hate, persecution against Christians and His church. Therefore the growth in Christlikeness would be even greater than when living in uninteresting times.

We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity. When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. (Psalm 75:1-3).

*Part of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2012.

Stephen Hawking, coffins, & other thoughts

Noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking died this week. He was brilliant, no doubt about that. His nickname in school was “Einstein”, and he lived up to name by contributing mightily to the areas of cosmology, particularly in Big Bang Theory and Black Holes.

He died of a rare form of Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) in that it progressed very slowly. He was 76.

Mr Hawking applied his mind in attempting to unlock the secrets of the universe, its forms and origins, functions and future. Though he made many discoveries, he never discovered the basic truth: God made it. In fact, the further Hawking went along, the more entrenched he became in denying the Designer and Sustainer of life. He made flatly rejecting statements about God and religion, such as these quoted in The UK Guardian in 2011-

The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a “fairy story” for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said. In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain’s most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Source

‘There is no heaven’. This is a true statement- for Mr Hawking- if indeed he maintained his rejection of God to the end.

‘There is no afterlife’. This is an untrue statement for Mr Hawking. He is discovering now that he is indeed alive, and further, has been granted a fresh body, albeit one that will be withstanding the fires and punishments of hell for all eternity (if indeed he did not repent at an unknown time.)

Hawking was the smartest man, as smart as than Einstein…seeking the mysteries of the universe all the days of his life- it was only death that revealed those mysteries to him. Sadly, it is too late.

Hawking went the way of all flesh (with a nod to Samuel Butler). The way of all flesh is death, either to resurrected life in glory with Jesus, or to eternal death & punishment apart from Jesus. Answers In Genesis has a sensitive and thoughtful epitaph on Mr Hawking’s life, here.

It’s times like these, when a famous atheist dies, that one ponders hell all over again. Hell is a monstrous doctrine. Not monstrous as in evil, for God is holy and just and all those who are sent there deserve it. Even those who are forgiven, like me, deserve it. It’s only the imputed righteousness of Jesus that diverts us from our fleshly final fiery resting place.

I mean monstrous as in the definition of “extremely and dauntingly large; as in, “the monstrous tidal wave swamped the surrounding countryside”.

It’s a huge thing to ponder hell, because it is for all eternity. Who can know?

In a similar vein, I saw this photo on Facebook this week.

Some people around here think it’s funny, others amusing, others intrigued. I never knew how much the idol of college football was alive and active until I came to Georgia. The University of Georgia Bulldogs’ arena is the Temple and the ‘Dawgs’ are worshiped by thousands of adoring fans.

I don’t think it’s amusing. I think it’s blasphemous. Sure, people, bring your idol with you to eternity. What could go wrong?

When my husband and I were in Puyo, Ecuador, a town then on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest and very remote, we spent a week. There were few industries in this one-dirt-road town. It truly was a frontier town, with one main road, plank sidewalks, a lonely hotel, and a few stores. One industry was coffin making. The people in that part of the South American country loved their highly decorated coffins. They would be made of heavy wood, and at the corners, one or all four, there would be clear glass. Inside the headlight-like small alcove would be blinking lamps, candles, statues of Mary, jewelry, or just lights. Perhaps they thought the lights could aid Charon as he guided the casket across the river Styx to the abode of the dead.

Do you know what I wish? I wish that all coffins would have two pictures on them, one at either end. One, a picture of glory and the New Jerusalem. The other, a picture of the Lake of Fire. That would give funeral-goers something to contemplate. There is an afterlife, and all flesh is consigned to one of them.

The difference is your position on Jesus. If you believe He is your risen God, having trusted in Him as savior and repented of sins which He forgave, you go to heaven. If you have rejected Him and failed to repent of your sins, you go to the Lake of Fire to be punished for your sins. You have committed cosmic treason, which must be justly punished..

Hell is a big subject. So is heaven. We will all have an eternity to contemplate it. After death it is too late to change your location. Repent now, while it is still day

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).


Prophecy: The restrainer and salt

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7).

I posted the full passage so that you can read the main verse under discussion today in context. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.

The Second Letter to the Thessalonians was a very early letter. Paul wrote it in about AD 51, just a few months after he had written his first letter to the church at Thessalonika. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul had obviously spent some time teaching the new Christians in their new church about the end times. Now, there’s proof positive that eschatology is not only for the mature, nor is it a marginal doctrine to be learned after all the other, more important doctrines have been taught. Paul launched right in to teaching about the rapture and the Day of the LORD (The Tribulation) to the newest Christians. He reminded them in the 2nd letter about the important points, probably to refute false teachers who had come in to tell the Thessalonians that the Day of the LORD had come.

dr nathan busenitz

By the way, this is another proof the rapture will happen before the Tribulation. If the sequence of events was that the rapture happens at the end of the Day of the LORD, why were the Thessalonians so concerned and sought Paul’s advice? They should have been happy. And encouraged.

Why did Paul have to calm them down and remind them of what he had already taught? And further, the pre-tribulation rapture was supposed to be an encouragement. (1 Thessalonians 4:18) if the sequence was post-tribulation rapture then they should have been encouraged, not concerned, becuase it was almost here.

Today’s verse involves the One who restrains. In the passage above, Paul is describing someone who is powerful enough to restrain the man of Sin (antichrist) and to restrain sin itself. Who is powerful enough to do that? No human, certainly. The Holy Spirit.

Paul is saying here that when the Holy Spirit ceases His ministry of restraining sin, the Man of Perdition will be revealed. The Tribulation will come into full swing.

Barnes’ Notes describes the restraining ministry’s effect:

It was some power which operated as a check on the growing corruptions then existing, and which prevented their full development, but which was to be removed at no distant period, and whose removal would give an opportunity for these corruptions to develop themselves, and for the full revelation of the man of sin.

Did you ever stop to think about the restraining power the Spirit does while He is inside of us,the Church, while we are on earth?  We hear people say that America is or was “A Christian Nation.” No, we never were. But it seemed like we were because so many people were Christians. Many of those were not, of course, but they modeled the precepts and behaved morally because so many other Christians were around. They might have had poor motivations to behave as a Christian, for business purposes, or for a social network, of for help with provision, but nevertheless, they adopted an external morality because that was the way to get along in society. Cultural pressure was brought to bear. The real Christians acted as salt.

We see this in 2 Corinthians 10:15. “We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged,” When the crisis at Corinth as resolved, Paul expanded the ministry to new areas.

Salt is preservative holding back decay. We are that salt. Each Christian with the Holy Spirit in him or her, acts as salt in the world. Salt prevents flesh from putrefying. When the Holy Spirit ceases His major ministry of restraining sin, and then He takes us out of the world in the rapture, each of us as a little salt crystal-Christian will disappear. There will be nothing left to stop the remaining flesh from corrupting. When we are removed the sin of the flesh will blossom, and quickly.

To be sure, the Holy Spirit is the power. We’re not. But us as little salt sprinkles around the world…when we AND the Spirit are removed out of the way, pow! Sin will be unrestrained in the world. Just think on it.


Bible Reading Plan: Isaiah’s seven time hotter sun*

In the Tribulation, agriculture will wither under a scorching sun.

Dorothea Lange, Abandoned farm north of Dalhart, TX. 1938.

At the end of the end days, during the Tribulation where all men living on the earth will be judged in wrath, there will be three sets of successively worsening judgments (or four sets, if the Seven Thunders of Revelation 10:1-4 are judgments).

There will first be the 7 Seal Judgments of Revelation 6, they open the Tribulation. Then the wrath of God is demonstrated through 7 Trumpet Judgments of Revelation 8-9. These are terrible judgments, but by God’s grace, some repent through them. After that there are the 7 Bowl Judgments. Revelation 15 opens with the 7 Bowl Judgments.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished. (Revelation 15:1).

These are the most terrible of all. They are so bad that no one is even allowed in the heavenly throne room sanctuary until they are concluded.

And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. (Revelation 16:7-8)

One of the Bowl judgments God pours on the people of the earth the plague of a hot sun. By this point in the Tribulation, no one is repenting. They know that God is sending His wrath onto the world, but they shake their fist at Him and refuse to repent. By this time, battle lines have been set in eternal stone. In Revelation 13 people either took the mark of the beast and thereby signaling their worship of satan, sealing their doom, (Revelation 14:9-10), or they refused the mark, thereby signaling their worship of the Lamb who lives forever, sealing most to their martyrdom.

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. (Revelation 16:8-9).

God makes the sun hotter, so hot that men will be on fire if they are exposed to it. God is powerful and controls the sun!

Let us look to a happier time, the Millennial Kingdom. God’s Prophets had much to say about this period in earth’s history, also. The Kingdom will be set up on earth after the Tribulation is over, and the Old Testament saints and Tribulation saints have been resurrected. Those who refused the mark of the beast and lived will populate this kingdom, too. Because they are mortal, they’ll re-populate the earth. It is at this time the resurrected Old Testament saints whom Jesus promised land and an earthly kingdom with Him (the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Messiah) on the throne, will have all their promises fulfilled. This is Israel’s gift.

In Isaiah 30:23-25 we read that during this time of the Millennium Kingdom,

And he will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous. In that day your livestock will graze in large pastures, 24and the oxen and the donkeys that work the ground will eat seasoned fodder, which has been winnowed with shovel and fork. 25And on every lofty mountain and every high hill there will be brooks running with water, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.

John MacArthur says of this time:

In the Messianic Kingdom of that future day, agriculture, cattle raising, food production, and water resources will prosper. The prophet predicted the redemption of nature. (cf. Rom 8:19-21)

In Isaiah 30:26 we read of further blessings:

Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.

The light of the sun will be seven times hotter?

MacArthur again:

The benefits from the natural bodies of light will be much greater. Increase of the intensity of their light will work to people’s advantage, not to their detriment as in Revelation 16:8-9.

In the Millennial Kingdom, a gentle, bright sun seven times
warmer will flourish the earth’s crops

When we read that God is sovereign overall creation, He is sovereign. He created the sun. As the Potter, He can make it do what He wills. During the Tribulation, it will be a mechanism for judgment, scorching men, who curse it. In the Millennium, the sun will be a mechanism for prosperity, and men will bless their Creator for giving them plenteous sunshine, healthful, glowing, and beautiful.

We groan, and cannot wait for redemption of our mortal bodies into glorified vessels worthy of seeing our Holy God. The creation groans too. When the creation is redeemed, it will rejoice also.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21).

This is how the creation will be set free. The sun will shine upon peaceable kingdom, over a flourishing agriculture, making men and crops thrive. Our Creator is majestic in power and sovereign over creation. He is to be worshiped, loved, praised. Our Jesus who was with God at the creation and who sustains all creation and without whom nothing was made that was made, is our hope. He is the hope of all creation. Our eternal Hope, who reigns forever.

Further Reading

The Glorious Return of Jesus Christ, part 1

Devotion: Three reassuring Signs 

*This post first appeared on The End Time in June 2015

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Romans 11 and the full number

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25).

John MacArthur on that verse in the sermon Has God Cancelled His Promises to Israel? part 6

The fullness of the Gentiles, that is when the full number of Gentiles are redeemed, the fullness of the Gentiles will bring the salvation of Israel. Follow now; the fullness of Israel will bring the kingdom.  So you have the fullness of the Gentiles and then they’re raptured out, God redeems Israel and when the fullness of Israel is redeemed, the kingdom comes.  And so with great joy does Paul predict this tremendous event that will bring about what it says in verse 26, “And so all Israel shall be saved,” after the fullness of the Gentiles have entered in.

At a certain point in earth’s history to come, it is promised to us that Jesus will lift His church composed of Christians dead and alive, into heaven to be with Him. Then he will hurl His stored-up wrath upon earth to punish the unbelieving nation Israel, and the sinful Gentile world. Some people say there will be no rapture at all. Others say that it will happen at the end of or in the middle of the time of wrath (AKA the Tribulation, or Time of Jacob’s Trouble). Since the rapture is in the Bible, and since it is a single even that is promised to occur, it can’t happen both before the Tribulation and at the end. Therefore one of those positions is right and one of them is wrong.

Scripture supports this stance that the rapture will happen before Jesus begins the last days punishments. Paul taught this in his treatment of the subject in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 15:42-57, it’s in Revelation, as well as being taught implicitly throughout other books of the Bible.

The event is supposed to be a hope to believers, and an encouragement, said Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:18. When you look around the dark world with its sin and evil, take hope in the knowledge that Jesus has a plan. His plan includes filling a quota for His Church (Romans 11:25). When that occurs, He will remove His Bride from the wrath, because we are not appointed to it. (Revelation 3:10). We will appear before His Bema seat to receive rewards for our service to Him while we were on earth, (2 Corinthians 5:10), and then enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:7–10). Meanwhile on earth, the Tribulation will have begun.

It is a joy to understand that God has not cancelled His promises to Israel and will return His attention ot his chosen nation in due time. He will fulfill His promises, sadly, the wrath, then joyfully, the bliss.

The pride of cities

In our Bible Reading Plan we’d read Isaiah 23. In it, was Isaiah’s prophecy against Tyre. Tyre was a major city on the coast, to which many ships from afar brought their goods to trade and sell. Tyre was held in high esteem by all around. (Isaiah 23:8). It had prestige and renown.

Is this your exultant city whose origin is from days of old, whose feet carried her to settle far away? 8Who has purposed this against Tyre, the bestower of crowns, whose merchants were princes, whose traders were the honored of the earth? 9The LORD of hosts has purposed it, to defile the pompous pride of all glory,c to dishonor all the honored of the earth
. (Isaiah 23:7-9)

When a city becomes so vaunted, the leaders of the city become proud. Hence the reason for Isaiah’s oracle against Tyre. (Isaiah 23:9). They attributed their success and fame to themselves, and not to God.

This situation reminded me of the scene in Daniel 4. King Nebuchadnezzar displayed the same problem.

and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30).

He attributed the city of Babylon’s success and fame to himself, and not to God. For his selfish boastfulness and pride, God determined to remove the kingdom from Nebuchadnezzar for 7 years, wherein he would live among beasts as a mad person and eat the grass of the field. When 7 years was over, God restored reason to the king and also the kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar praised God for all His glory.

When we see the glittering towers of the city, its cathedrals, towers, strongholds, and castles, we tend to become proud of our accomplishment in building them. We admire the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Sears Tower, the Windsor Castle, the Taj Mahal… We enlarge our sea ports and construct airports and enjoy the trade and commerce merchants willingly bring to the city.

We applaud man’s ingenuity in building these majestic buildings, we love the fame and renown these landmarks bring to the city and we become boastful inhabitants. But we forget that we have no strength of our own, and no intellect, or ability unless God grants it.

Tyre was razed in 332 BC when Alexander the Great conquered it. And Babylon, we know was felled in one night as described in Jeremiah 51:8 and Daniel 5:30.

If a prophet were to prophesy today, what oracle might be spoken about New York City? Los Angeles? Paris? London? Ezekiel 38:20 prophesies a future day when all walls will crumble to the ground. This page shows how many times God said He will destroy a city for its pride and rebellion. We know He destroyed four Cities of the Plain in one night, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim.

The end result of pride, is destruction. This is reiterated in the New Testament, in today’s reading of Matthew 11. There is a section between verses 20-24 called “Woe to Unrepentant Cities” such as Chorazin, Bethsaida, Tyre, Sidon, and Capernaum.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18). The verse applies to cities as well. The Isaiah verse we’d read yesterday is warning about this.

milan duomo

EPrata photo

God’s grief over sin

While reading Psalm 14 in yesterday’s Bible Reading Plan, I was reminded of another set of verses. First, here is Psalm 14-

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
there is none who does good.

2The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

3They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

4Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
who eat up my people as they eat bread
and do not call upon the LORD?
(Psalm 14: 1-4).

We’re familiar with Paul’s reference to Psalm 14:3, in Romans 3:10. We are also familiar with the famous verse in Psalm 14, ‘the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” ‘

But the tone of the Psalmist crying out to God because of peoples’ ungodliness, reminded me of the tragic verses in Genesis 6:5-6,

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

It’s good to be reminded that as much as we grieve over sin, like the Psalmist, God grieves so much more. When your little one throws a tantrum, or steals his brother’s toy, or hits a kid at school, you’re angry and grieved because we know that behavior is not the best for your child. I wonder what God sees when He looks down upon His children on the earth. According to the Genesis verse, He grieves. We also know He is angry. (Romans 1:18).

Oh, how sweet it will be when all are reconciled in holiness to our Holy God, no more blot or stain to arouse His grief and anger. What a day that will be.